What does Hallelujah mean?

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Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah Meaning

Song Released: 1984


Covered By: Rufus Wainwright (2007)


Hallelujah Lyrics

Lyrics removed by the request of NMPA

  1. 1TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Mar 27th, 2010 3:45pm report


    The first time I heard this song it touched me. Both the melody and the words are really powerful. This is my interpretation.

    The logic of the song is there can be many different hallelujah's. Hallelujah can be said in many different circumstances.

    Lennard Cohen uses this theme to talk about the hardships of love.

    There are many biblical references in the song (King David, Samson and Delilah). I will not go in to them, other have already explained these references in great detail.

    There are many versions of this song. Even LC did not always sing the same verses.
    I believe the version he performed during his 2008 tour (maybe still does) is the most logical (complete):

    Verse 1:
    Now I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    David loves music, but his love does not. He does not understand this (is baffled) and tries to explain (the cords are matched by the actual song), thus composing the Hallelujah.
    I believe this is about unmatched intrests in a relationship.

    Verse 2:
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    The man (David) falls in love, but the relation is not a healty one. It ends up with him submitting and losing his powers. It is a distructive relationship and the Hallelujah is one of dispair.

    Verse 3:
    Maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
    And it's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not somebody who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    Maybe the most "black" verse, reflecting on the bitterness of love. When you hear a Hallelujah it's probably not because of joy (seeing the light), but because someone is hurting.

    Verse 4:
    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    The relationship still exists, but it's hollow. It is like it was when he was alone. He has seen the glorious side of love (the flag on the marble arch), but the love is not lasting and his hart is broken, therefore the Hallelujah is cold and broken.

    Verse 5:
    There was a time you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

    He remembers when things were good, how their lovemaking made him feel like they were really together, and their Hallelujahs were those of joy and ecstasy.

    Verse 6:
    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though
    It all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    The conclusion of the song: Here LC turns from looking back to looking forward.
    We try, but often fail in love. We start with the best intentions and though it can go wrong, we need to try. In the end it is worth it. This Hallelujah is optimistic, because it shows that the hardships have not defeated him.

    This last verse is not included in most covers, but for me the last verse makes the song complete. It takes it full circle, bringing back the biblical relationship between the subject and a (the) Lord. It also gives the song a hyperbolic ending, which I prefer.



  2. 2TOP RATED

    crissy
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    Feb 1st, 2009 2:27pm report


    Most of the interpretations I have heard refer to biblical stories and of course it is impossible to ignore the analogies with King David and Bathsheba. However,I think these can obscure the meaning of the song and I would rather go beyond them. Analyzing a poem line by line sometimes misses the core of meaning which may actually be not fully realized by the poet himself.What after all was Kubla Khan, Coleridges poem about? It came out of a drug-induced reverie and the words are impossible to interpret literally.

    What I see in the poem is a man who finds it hard to reconcile his own singular personal quest for truth as a spiritual seeker and as a creative artist with earthly love.He is "overthrown" by the beauty of the woman bathing on the roof and intoxicated with desire for her yet with that comes compromise.Being tied to a kitchen chair suggests being bound to domesticity and having his hair cut recalls Samson whose strength was lost when Delilah cut his hair.He feels he has sacrificed his power for ephemeral sexual desire,emotional needs and freedom from the burden of loneliness.

    And inevitably the hallelujah, the ecstasy fades and withit bitterness and disillusionment since his lover has no feeling for creativity as evidenced by her lack of interest in music,his explanation of which seems to fall on deaf ears.

    At the same time,the sexual magnetism, "down below" has diminished or even gone in the way that the energy of many relationships weaken into dead habit.

    So there is a sense he has been left with nothing, doubting a god above and likening earthly love to a gunfight.It is as if he has betrayed his deepest yearnings and is only left with a cold and broken hallelujah, an empty exhortation, a state of inner desolation.

    Yet the tone of the song is so bittersweet, so beautiful and sad that there might be a suggestion that he has reconciled those feelings and accepted the limits of the relationship,knowing that even sharing a life with someone cannot assuage his inner loneliness.

    Hallelujah is a beautiful,ironic and melancholy masterpiece.



  3. 3TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    May 20th, 2009 5:07pm report


    Interpreted by : Francis O'Brien
    **Many times Cohen says hallelujah in many different contexts; this is the core of the song and will be explained at the end of the analysis.

    For the first part:

    Now I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    This relates to the story of King David who was had an intimate relation with god and was also a great harp player (secret cord/pleased the lord). The hallelujah at the end of this verse is a happy and spiritual one.


    Second part:
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    In this part Cohen relates to the story of David and Bathsheba when David was walking on the roofs he saw her bathing and seduced her ending up committing adultery and lost a lot of influence and weakened his link with god (broken throne). Then we move to the story of Samson who gets his hair cut and loses all his powers, once again, a broken throne. In this verse, the hallelujah is a very sad and desperate one.
    Third Part:
    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
    In this part Cohen talks about the ambivalence of love and its effect on your faith. It can be glorious like a flag on a marble arch or it can be cold and broken. And when in heart break you may lose or strengthen your faith, in this case it is strengthened because he still praises the lord in the end. In this case, the hallelujah is (obviously) cold and broken.

    Fourth Part:
    There was a time you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
    This is an obvious reference to sexuality and that even through an act as disgraceful as sex you can still praise the lord. In this verse the hallelujah can be interpreted as an “orgasmic” one.



    Fifth Part:
    You say I took the name in vain
    I don't even know the name
    But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
    There's a blaze of light
    In every word
    It doesn't matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah
    This is a reference to one of the ten commandments and through this Cohen is trying to make the listener understand that religion and faith is not etched in stone and that every one should interpret the holy texts and religion in his own way and that there is no “Right Way” to believe. This is an uncertain hallelujah, meaning that he is not sure what to believe but he believes anyway.
    Sixth Part:
    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though
    It all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
    In this part, he has found what to believe in and realizes his past errors but he is ready to face the lord because he now has complete faith. This hallelujah is one of total faith and love for “the lord”.

    Hallelujahs:
    The song revolves around the word Hallelujah, which is a Hebrew word which means praise Yah/Jah or the Lord. And through the song, he says that all Hallelujahs are of equal value no matter the circumstance or the cause of the act. Weather it is in complete blissful faith or is from broken desperation, all ways and goals to prise the lord mean the same and are all equal.



  4.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 14th, 7:15pm report


    I sing this song from a woman's viewpoint -- but my interpretation is much like the first comment. Without that final verse, the song and the singer both end broken. But with that final verse:
    "I did my best, it wasn't much
    "I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    "I told the truth, I didn't come to fool yah

    "But even though it all went wrong
    "I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    "With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!"

    This is triumphant -- somewhat bitter, but still triumphant. The singer doesn't need to follow a Judeo-Christian tradition (I don't) to understand this. The "Lord of Song" could be any of a number of Gods -- Apollo, Herne, Lugh and so many more. Still, to stand before that god, still praising even in sorrow -- that's triumph



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 14th, 7:20am report


    On a very simple level, it means "Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."



  6.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 2nd, 7:35am report


    For a moment, imagine the song as though it was written from a woman’s perspective. Let’s refer to this woman as ‘woman’. The noun and verb tenses align best this way.

    FIRST STANZA

    I’ve heard there was a secret chord // That David played, and it pleased the Lord // But you don't really care for music, do you? // It goes like this // The fourth, the fifth // The minor fall, the major lift // The baffled king composing Hallelujah // Hallelujah, Hallelujah // Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    FIRST STANZA INTERPRETATION

    David can please the Lord through musical worship. However, the woman supposes that even the best song of devotion couldn’t please the boy (the one she refers to as “you”). She repeats the secret cords anyways, and imagines the “baffled” King David pleasing the Lord through the chords. The Hallelujahs that follow can be interpreted as the 'woman’s longing desire to please her boy as King David pleases the Lord.

    SECOND STANZA

    Your faith was strong but you needed proof // You saw her bathing on the roof // Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you // She tied you to a kitchen chair // She broke your throne, and she cut your hair // And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah // Hallelujah, Hallelujah // Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    SECOND STANZA INTERPRETATION

    Now the ‘woman' is addressing the boy (the same “you” she longed to please within the first stanza). The ‘woman' accounts the boy falling in love with another girl. As the boy is understood falling for a girl “bathing on the roof”, the boy is thus reflected back onto King David, through the king's first encounter with Bathsheba. In the next verse, the woman makes a similar reference to another relationship in the bible, Samson and Delilah.

    Extra biblical context: Both King David and Samson were followers of the Lord, but along the way, lost sight of their morality and faith due to their broken relationships with women. King David basically murdered Bathsheba’s husband so that he could win the woman, Bathsheba, he had lusted over; Samson shared the source of his strength (his hair) to his lover, Delilah--who in return cuts his hair, and takes Samson’s strength from him.

    The ‘woman’ thus is accounting the broken relationship(s) that the boy is currently enthralled by. The Hallelujahs that follow can be interpreted as the boy’s hallelujahs, praising the girl(s) he momentarily enthralled by.

    THIRD STANZA

    Maybe I have been here before // I know this room, I've walked this floor // I used to live alone before I knew you // I've seen your flag on the marble arch // Love is not a victory march // It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah // Hallelujah, Hallelujah // Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    THIRD STANZA INTERPRETATION

    The ‘woman’ addresses the boy’s situation. She notes that she herself has been in the same place he currently is residing. Just as the boy is enthralled by a lover who was no good for him, the ‘woman’ claims that she herself has “been here before”. She too has fallen for a boy that is no good for her. In the third verse of this stanza, she notes that she “used to live alone before [she] knew [the boy]”. In turning the attention to the boy, one might interpret the ‘woman’ and the boy to be previous lovers. As such, it is not a far stretch to assume that the boy was the ‘woman’s no-good-for-her ex. In the fourth verses of the stanza, the ‘woman' accounts the boy’s bravery in professing and expressing his love for these other girls, his “flag on the marble arch” so to say. The ‘woman’ rebuttals and claims that the love the boy is so enthralled by is deceitful. Her cold response leaves one to believe that the boy left the ‘woman’ broken-hearted. The Hallelujahs that follow can be interpreted as the ‘woman’ either giving in to the fact that she isn’t over the boy OR that the ‘woman’ is mockingly repeating hallelujah as the boy gets his heart-broken.

    FOURTH STANZA

    There was a time you let me know // What's real and going on below // But now you never show it to me, do you? // And remember when I moved in you? // The holy dark (or holy dove, depending on the rendition) was moving too // And every breath we drew was Hallelujah // Hallelujah, Hallelujah // Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    FOURTH STANZA INTERPRETATION

    The ‘woman’ is directly addressing her relationship with the boy in this stanza. Whether interpreted as a sexual reference or as a deep and emotional connection, we know the boy has pushed away the ‘woman’. But the ‘woman’ places older memories in the face of the boy. The ‘woman’ claims that “every breath [they] drew was Hallelujah”. The Hallelujahs that follow can be interpreted as the ‘woman’ replaying the memories over and over again in her head, and in a similar sense, displaying the memories over and over again for the boy.

    FIFTH STANZA

    Maybe there's a god above // And all I ever learned from love // Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you // And it's not a cry you can hear at night, // It's not somebody who's seen the light // It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah // Hallelujah, Hallelujah // Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    FIFTH STANZA INTERPRETATION

    The ‘woman’ says that “maybe there’s a god above”, but she obviously has never know God’s unfailing love because “all [she’s] ever learned from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew [the boy]”. By “shoot”, the ‘woman’ is referring to herself as she bashes the other girls that challenge herself for the boy’s affection. In this sense, the earthly love the ‘woman’ has only ever experienced has been spiteful and plagued by jealousy. The cupid reference is thus understood as the ‘woman’ mocking herself as she attempts to inform the boy that the relationship(s) he’s in are not good for him. “It’s” refers to love. The ‘woman’ claims that love is “not a cry [the boy] can hear at night” and love is “not somebody who’s seen the light”. She claims love is “cold” and “broken Hallelujah”. The Hallelujahs that follow can be interpreted as the ‘woman’s surrender to her broken heat, to her cold and broken surrender to love’s defeat.

    FINALE

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    FINALE INTERPRETATION

    The final hallelujahs that follow the fifth stanza can be interpreted as a repetition of surrender to love’s defeat. HOWEVER, I would like to imagine that these final two verses of Hallelujah were not written by the ‘woman’. I would like to imagine the final two verses as the boy, himself, coming to realize the bitter sting of a broken heart. As he agrees with his ex-lover, the ‘woman’, the boy is reflecting over his own broken relationships.




    **A STRETCH, BUT READ IF INTERESTED**

    Imagine the ‘woman’ wrote the boy a letter. The letter reads:

    ______________________________________________________
    Lennard Cohen,

    I’ve heard there was a secret chord that David played, and it pleased the Lord... but you don't really care for music, do you? It goes like this *insert music where the minor falls and then the major lifts*. The baffled king composing Hallelujah.
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof. You saw her bathing on the roof. Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you. She tied you to a kitchen chair. She broke your throne, and she cut your hair. And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah.
    Maybe I have been here before; I know this room, I've walked this floor. I used to live alone before I knew you. I've seen your flag on the marble arch, but Love is not a victory march... It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah.
    There was a time you let me know what's real and going on below, but now you never show it to me, do you? And remember when I moved in you? The holy dove was moving too, and every breath we drew was Hallelujah.
    Maybe there's a god above, and all I ever learned from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you. And it's not a cry you can hear at night; It's not somebody who's seen the light; It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah.

    Sincerely,
    The ‘woman’

    ______________________________________________________


    *LC ends a broken relationship.*
    *He then recalls a letter, written by a lover long ago, where she spoke of heartache and sorrow caused by love.*
    *LC pulls the letter out and reads it over.*
    *He now understands the ‘woman’s sorrow*
    *LC can’t help but sing, "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah”*

    The end.





    I apologize for the last part. It is a bit of an imaginative interpretation. However, to the best of my knowledge, the relationships and outlooks on love in the song follow along with my argument.



  7.  

    anonymous
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    Jun 16th, 6:08pm report


    "She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah"
    I think this line mean's Delilah and samson story. By the bible, Delilah (who was philistine) was the only womam that samson ever loved (she was his third wife), but she wasn't love him back. Samson was given by God for a supernatural power. the Philistines asked Delilah to seduce Samson and asking him what his power sorce is. he told her his power come from his hair, that he was never cut. at night, she CUT HIS HAIR and he became powerless.
    After that he jailed by the philistines.



  8.  

    anonymous
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    May 26th, 5:49am report


    I believe the first interpretation is most accurate...Except for the 2nd verse. No one here gets from the second verse what I hear in it. I think that getting his hair cut and his throne broken could not be making him desperate or despairing if it draws an hallelujah from his lips. I believe Cohen is speaking his own truth (not the biblical one) and describing the moment when his ego finally surrenders and lays down before the glory of love (= his heart surrenders to the glory of God). It is the laying down of the greatest burden of man (the ego= that which separates him from God) and he experiences his first real epiphany.



  9.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 22nd, 3:40pm report


    “You see, Mario, I can’t tell you in words different from those I’ve used. When you explain it, poetry becomes banal. Better than any explanation is the experience of feelings that poetry can reveal to a nature open enough to understand it.”

    Pablo Neruda to Mario Ruoppolo
    (when asked about the meaning of a line in one of his poems)
    From “Il Postino”



  10.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 20th, 3:22pm report


    In the life of David, his worst almost unforgivable blunder was the taking of the woman bathing on the roof who is Bethsheeba. In order to call her his own he had to send her husband, Uriah, the Hitite, to the front lines where he was almost certain to die and he did get killed and David claimed her for his wife. The karma lives on with their son Solomon who achieves greatness in wisdom with the Lord but also falls to lust with many princesses from other nations for political reasons and Solomon ends up worshipping many gods of foreign lands and loses his one-pointed devotion to God. David enjoyed such a closeness with God also before his sin. LC goes through the human drama of love, ups and downs, the highs and the lows. It is such a painful song about putting too much faith in human love and when that fails you are left empty and alone. In spiritual love, there is no pain but an eternal blossoming. But being human, like David, we easily fall prey to the enticement. Human love can be very beautiful and fulfilling if you love without attachment. But that is quite difficult sometimes. We love one person and forget the creator of that Love which is the Lord. Earthly love needs balance or it most definitely will end in pain. If the Lord is first in your life, if following the truth in your heart is first, then you will develop wisdom and balance and that will extend into your love life. It will be long lasting. If you love another without seeing God in that person, that love is doomed because there is always a chance for conflict. If your human love is viewed as but one aspect of the whole of your life, there will be balance and success in all undertakings. your marriage will last into a Golden anniversary. Hallelujah. But LC is not saying all that. He is hanging on to the power and passion of a purely physical mental emotional bond that has now lost its magnetism and it is a song of loss for a shattered dream. But he also remembers the power that the love once had and that in essence "It is better to have lived and loved than to have never loved at all." As human beings we are also very attached to our dramas be they sad or happy. Sad dramas carry deep passion and we are very attached to our great sadness. It ensures us that we are human and the pain reinforces that fact over and over again. This never ending drama also ensures our rebirth in the Buddhist sense of reincarnation to keep on experiencing our passions time and time again until we finally decide that the pain is either too much or too boring and then we make the final decision to disengage from the world and journey inward for true satisfaction...Hallelujah



  11.  

    Inmyhumbleopinion
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    Mar 13th, 3:52pm report


    Upon first hearing this song, I was just moved to hear "Praise God" in a secular setting, but, in listening for the lyrics, I realized that I'd assumed it was a song of worship, when it was obviously about love-making. I was originally distracted by the first few words, and I was very impressed with the use of musical terms to describe the Fall in the Garden, and the crucifiction [the minor fall and the major lift] but, after this song has become a part of my daily experience, I've come to understand it as a gifted expression of the spiritual aspect of the apex of physical love. [drawing the Hallelujah from his lips ... The word 'hallelujah', glorifying the One who created the act, and the bodies of men and women.]

    So, now that I've contributed my interpretation, lemme just add that, I think it is a little off-base to have a lot of third-party interpretations w/o having Leonard's own contribution about how the lyrics came about.

    *Yet, sometimes the writers come up with words and themes without having a real agenda in mind, and the beauty of poetic expression is in leaving it open to be understoo
    N d in meaningful ways by the individual. [There
    is one song that is a favorite of mine, but, I've heard the author say that he didn't ùnow what it means (to which, I responded I know what it means!' And, I do. It means so much. I appreciate the fact that The world has been graced with gifted writers, who can so artfully use language to draw word pictures.
    Thank you, Leonard! You have enriched my life. Now, can we please have your input here? <3



  12.  

    anonymous
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    Feb 22nd, 2015 2:39pm report


    This is one of my top ten favorite songs of all times. I am not, in any way, making light of one line that confuses me.
    I ask: What was that woman doing bathing on the roof?
    Oh ... sun bathing, I guess! I never thought of that. Duh!
    I will read every interpretation a bit later. Then will come my total confusion!
    Thank you for all that you have given us, Leonard.
    Your Fan,
    Suzanne : )



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Feb 19th, 2015 2:44am report


    My interpretation is that this song reflects the post-holocaust agnosticism that is present in many parts of the Jewish community. It reflects a tension between wanting to believe, but not being able to believe in the face of the horrible suffering of the community at the hands of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia.



  14.  

    anonymous
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    Feb 17th, 2015 2:45pm report


    i take it as a man who had a perfect relationship and was drawn to another woman, and in the end relized he had made a mistake and lost his perfect relationship. beautiful woman on the roof, tied him to a chair and cut his hair. lost his faithfulness to his love, and it was never that same in the end



  15.  

    anonymous
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    Feb 5th, 2015 2:01am report


    The speaker in the song has gone from being alone to the euphoria of falling in love,albeit with the wrong person, to finally learning how truly alone you can feel, while still in that same relationship.

    I think the word hallelujah is not being used to praise God, but rather as a bittersweet "eureka", as in "oh, now I understand....how disappointing....how very, very disappointing".



  16.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 22nd, 2014 12:49am report


    Not an interpretation of the song, just something i felt. Replacing the "hallelujah" to "I love you" seems to work perfectly with almost every verse.

    A hard relationship, when despite your feelings of lost power and self, she still pulls the words from your lips despite the way you feel.

    When in the early stages of passionate new love, when every breath is I love you.

    When the relationship gets hard. When you feel alone in your inner self, realising that learning to touch someone else or make them feel cherished, doesn't cure the feelings of isolation or self-loathing and the lack of fulfilment. When even though you've lost hope that they will be your redemption, when you're cold, and alone, and broken, you still love them.

    When all is past and all is failed, he still stands in song, with the words I love you on his lips, whether referencing a person, or a safety and reliability in his passion for music.



  17.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 8th, 2014 12:34pm report


    This song is a beautiful melody with mostly meaningless words. The couplets rhyme, that's about it.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  18.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 5th, 2014 12:56pm report


    It's about sex, impotence and getting old. It's a metaphor which uses biblical imagery to put forward an idea. It is composed by an heretic and it is absolutely beautiful in the message it tells. It also takes the piss! This is LC do you really believe he's producing hymns? Fcuk me you are a bunch of wankers.



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